NSW voters could cast a ballot at the next state election without leaving home under proposed changes that would alleviate the Saturday rush for polling booths.
A joint parliamentary inquiry into electoral matters said the so-called iVote system, which allows electors to vote using the internet, should be introduced for all council and state elections.
It called for the measure in a draft report obtained by Fairfax Media, saying it would help boost voter turnout. The report is due to be tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
However, voting experts say the system is open to abuse by hackers and should be used with caution.
The iVote system was introduced at the 2011 NSW state election for people who were vision-impaired, had reading difficulties or other disabilities. It was also open to those who live more than 20 kilometres from a polling place or would be interstate or overseas on polling day.
The inquiry’s chairman Liberal MP Gareth Ward said the measure, if made available to all voters, would be an Australian first.
“When you live in an era with new technology you’ve got to take advantage of it,” he said.
“There are still people not showing up on polling day … I passionately believe people fought and died for the right to vote and that people should, regardless of their view, cast a formal ballot. We need to make it as easy as possible.”
The Nationals have previously pushed for the expansion of internet voting to assist regional residents.
The Local Government Acts Taskforce says electronic voting could cut costs and “improve voter convenience and accessibility”.
But University of Sydney constitutional law expert Anne Twomey said electronic voting systems could be infiltrated by hackers. She said that, aside from the recent lost votes at the Western Australian senate election, physical ballots were “pretty secure and it’s impossible for someone with one computer to destroy the whole thing”.
ABC election analyst Antony Green said the security of electronic voting remained an “unanswered question”.
The NSW Electoral Commission says iVote’s security and privacy “is as good as or better than the other methods of casting a vote”.
It employs measures such as external expert scrutiny, sophisticated encryption and parallel systems in different locations so iVote can continue in the case of power or equipment failures or hacking attacks.
Meantime, the NSW Property Council has welcomed the inquiry’s draft recommendation that businesses in the City of Sydney be forced to vote in council elections. It would mean almost 80,000 businesses, landlords, corporations and other eligible non-residents would be added to the electoral roll, potentially boosting the conservative vote at a cost to progressive Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore.
The Property Council’s executive director Glenn Byres said a standing electoral roll should be implemented for council polls, adding that the current system, in which businesses have to re-enrol for each election, “is too narrow and complex to encourage meaningful participation”.
The parliamentary committee is dominated by Coalition and Shooters Party MPs. The recommendation follows a law introduced by the O’Farrell government in 2012 which prevented state MPs from serving in local government, forcing Cr Moore to choose the lord mayoralty over the state seat of Sydney.
Her independent successor, Alex Greenwich, was comfortably elected to Parliament.
Cr Moore said “politically motivated changes” to the council’s electoral process “will be seen by voters as a cynical ploy, by the Liberal Party, to try and take control of the council after they failed to do so at the last election”.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.